ABOUT THE WINEMAKER REGINE SUMEIRE
From the peninsula of Saint-Tropez, the winemaker Régine Sumeire (Domaine Barbeyrolles) revolutionized the sleeping world of rosés by inventing in the mid-1980s a wine that would become a new reference worldwide: the famous “Pétale de Rose“.
Régine Sumeire represents the third generation of winegrowers in her family. Not necessarily destined to take over the family estate (her father saw her as a pharmacist and she has a doctorate in Letters) but driven by passion, she went into debt over 30 years to acquire an estate in Gassin, one of the three villages on the Saint-Tropez peninsula
THE BARBEYROLLES ESTATE
“Before arriving in Gassin, I had already visited several estates, but here, something quite inexplicable happened. The building was in ruins, brambles were invading the vines, but I knew I was home. I couldn’t let the opportunity pass. While visiting the house where everything had to be redone, I saw myself at the table with friends: it was love at first sight!
The location, 2 km from the sea and 7 from Saint-Tropez, is ideal and has enormous potential. Very chic, too? Yes, but Saint-Tropez had nothing to do with what it has become now,” corrects Régine Sumeire. The stars were already coming, but it was still a village where “Tropezians” lived. It was not bling bling like today.
The choice of the heart was not the easy one. When she took over the property, Régine Sumeire knew that she had her work cut out for her, since everything had to be renovated or built. She set about this task with unwavering determination. After four years of work in the cellar and the vineyards, she is finally marketing her first wines labeled Château de Barbeyrolles.
THE PETALE DE ROSE
This wine is a small miracle that owes its birth to the curiosity and audacity of the winemaker. It was during one of her many trips that Régine Sumeire found the solution. Jean-Bernard Delmas, the technical director of Château Haut-Brion (first classified growth in Bordeaux, Pessac-Léognan), pointed out to me that we both had an identical press,” she explains. He advised me to try it to make rosés. As soon as the following harvest, in 1985, Régine Sumeire put the idea into practice with Grenache. “It was fabulous, I couldn’t believe it… The wine was clear, diaphanous, its color was magnificent. And the juice was fresh, pure… so good! The trial was a great success.
In order to better identify this new wine, which is quite different from the usual production, Régine Sumeire has abandoned the Provençal bottle for the Bordeaux one. As for the name of the cuvée, the winemaker owes it to one of her friends, a great lover of gardens. “She immediately liked the color, which she compared to a rose petal. I liked it so much that I registered the brand. In addition, we were in 1981, one year after the election of François Mitterrand as President of the French Republic: we were in the spirit of the times!
Quite quickly, this “new generation” rosé found its followers. Alain Ducasse put it on the wine list of his restaurant, a guarantee of seriousness. Its popularity grew so rapidly that the classic Provençal rosés of the time, which were darker, became irrevocably has-beens. In a few years, the “Pétale de Rose” became an essential reference.
A fine cook – she has even written a recipe book – Régine Sumeire likes to open a “Pétale de Rose” with a fine fish, a piece of veal, salads or soufflés.
A BIODYNAMIC VINEYARD
The 12 hectares of Château Barbeyrolles are certified organic since 2005 and biodynamic since 2020. However, many biodynamic practices were already applied from 2009. The work in the vineyard is done with a horse to avoid compacting the soil and the treatments are as light as possible. To ensure that the vines deliver the best grapes, yields are measured: between 30 and 40 hectoliters per hectare. Harvesting is done by hand and only perfect grapes are kept. Damaged grapes are systematically eliminated.
LA TOUR DE L’ÉVÊQUE
Winemaker Régine Sumeire also manages the vast family estate: Château La Tour de l’Évêque, 80 hectares near Pierrefeu, in the Maures hills, in the Var. The castle has a long history: it was the summer residence of the bishops of Toulon. Like Château Barbeyrolles, the Tour de l’Évêque vineyard has been organic since 2005. It will complete its conversion to biodynamic farming in 2024. Régine Sumeire produces rich and powerful red wines (such as the Cuvée Noir & Or, made from Syrah and a touch of Cabernet Sauvignon).
Thanks to winemaker Régine Sumeire for this interview.
Text written by Erwant Nonet.
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